If you think that convincing your bosses is all about providing them with Just the facts, ma'am then think again. It's as much about how you present those facts that matters. There is a difference between information and intelligence. Information is a collection of unprocessed facts. Intelligence is the result of skillful analysis of that information which then provides you with conclusions and suggested courses of action. You should be providing that intelligence and presenting your 'facts' as a body of evidence for the conclusions your boss should be drawing.
I will talk about analysis and presentation further in future posts, but one of the useful skills I employ in order to turn information (data) into intelligence, is a powerful spreadsheet package which is almost certainly already sitting on your desktop.
One area where I sometimes depart from my mantra to delegate as far as possible is with quick fixes and data manipulation when I want to extract some useful management information from a database or spreadsheet.
Honestly, I should probably train up all of my staff to be IT gurus, but sometimes its nice to be the subject matter expert
And speaking of experts, I have to doff my cap to Bill Jelen of Mr Excel fame. Although I taught myself many of the basics of Excel, I didn't really become a power user until I read Guerilla Data Analysis.
Q: So what did Bill's book teach me that you might find useful?
A: How to use Pivot Tables effectively.
If you don't know what a pivot table is, have a look at this tutorial on the Microsoft Dynamics website. Excel's rudimentary help file describes them as
an interactive table that you can use to quickly summarize large amounts of data. You can rotate its rows and columns to see different summaries of the source data, filter the data by displaying different pages, or display the details for areas of interest.
That doesn't really do it justice. The pivot table is probably the killer ap for excel. In its most basic form it allows you to take sales information likes this:
Into useful intelligence about the effectiveness of your marketing like this:
How you use your data is limited by your imagination, but Microsoft have kindly provided some suggestions for Excel 2002 at 25 Pivot Table Reports